GlobalWebIndex (GWI) published the findings of its extensive research into the global consumer trends that are shaping not just consumer behavior, but also their feelings, motivations, and attitudes now and for the year ahead.

The annual ‘Connecting the dots’ report, compiled from 700,000 interviews across 46 countries, explores how internet users are changing the way they act, think, and feel, in line with events around the world.

Livestreaming commerce is rising as the new medium for online shopping.

global trend 2021
Jason Mander, Chief Research Officer at GWI.

“2020 has spanned a pandemic, global lockdowns, the Black Lives Matter movement, extraordinary wildfires in Australia and the Americas, the rise of TikTok, US elections, to name but a few. The world has changed, and so have consumers. Through Connecting the dots, you won’t just know what the biggest behavioral shifts were in 2020, you’ll see what’s been driving them, and how to take advantage. This, coupled with a harmonized global perspective, can help give confidence that what you’re seeing isn’t just a regional fad. In an era defined by universal change, context is king. Without it, distinguishing between hype and reality is even more difficult” said Jason Mander, Chief Research Officer at GWI.

Connecting the dots 2021: Zero in on what matters

Explaining the report’s scope, Jason Mander said: “We zoomed into consumers around the globe, and connected the dots to identify eight key trends. From new flexible working patterns to livestream digital shopping, ethical consumerism, mental health and coronavirus, one thing is clear; uncertainty rules the day. Against this complexity, this report provides clarity and perspective. We identified both best and worst case scenarios to help us all navigate our way through 2021 to stand out and meet the expectations of the global population.”

One thing is clear; uncertainty rules the day.

These are the key trends to watch out for in 2021:

A green awakening: make sustainability part of the recovery in 2021 

The first wave of lockdowns had an unexpected upside: we began a new chapter in our relationship with the environment. However, any gains look set to be wiped out as normality returns. Cynicism is also set to make a comeback. Consumers have gone from seeing a bright future ahead to feeling pessimistic – and this backlash will ensure green values are a hot topic through 2021 and back on top of the agenda.

Environmental optimism since COVID-19
% of global internet users who say the environment will get better in the next 6 months
Q3 2019Q4 2019Q1 2020Q2 2020Q3 2020
4142415346

The digital storefront: how livestreams will support ecommerce 2.0

The explosive growth of TikTok, the rise of influencers, and the need for brands to distinguish themselves online. Livestreaming commerce is rising as the new medium for online shopping. This will be a new battleground for retailers and may bring community and entertainment to ecommerce – elements it currently lacks, yet consumers state it would encourage them to buy products. As shopping becomes increasingly digitized, livestream commerce is a key way to create a more interactive, entertaining experience that consumers crave. More about ‘the digital storefront’.

It’s a kindness magic: brand purpose will need to shift

As the COVID-19 crisis develops, businesses will need to think through their responses beyond short-term crisis management. This includes building new ways of doing business that bake in kindness and empathy at their core. Serving up PPE and hand sanitizer worked well at the time, but next year will need more focus on individual consumers and how to support them during times of hardship.

New expectations on brands 
% of internet users in 7 countries who want brands to put more focus on the following 
Supporting people during COVID-1956%
Being eco-friendly51%
Supporting/being vocal about social causes (e. g. equal rights, poverty etc)41%

More than lockdown blues: the looming mental health crisis

The effects of the current health crisis will usher in another one in 2021 – the mental health crisis. Businesses will need to take the same proactive approach that they deployed in the early stages of the corona meltdown. When asked what consumers are more concerned about,  almost a third (31%) stated mental health and wellbeing compared to 29% who said a COVID-19 vaccine.

All work, no play: the 9-5 model is sapping productivity

Looking ahead, bosses will be torn between pulling the troops back in or continuing with remote working. The latter may be the smarter decision. Not only can it whip up business performance during an uncertain time, but also boost productivity and employee satisfaction – when combined with flexible working. Office staff are 32% more likely to say they are allowed to work from home since 2019. In comparison, there’s just a 5% increase in those stating that they are now more likely to work flexible hours.  

Coming of age: a generation-defining year for Gen X and boomers

2020 is a “generation-defining” year. This is especially true for the mature age groups. Generation X and baby boomers have increased their reliance on the internet and online shopping, which looks to be permanent. As many populations are aging, the older groups’ market power is soaring. Their decisions and behaviors will be more impactful than you might think. Online grocery shopping alone in the U.S. has grown by 57% among Gen X and baby boomers since Q3 2019.

Data for good: nurturing the new relationship between consumers and online privacy 

The hot topic of data privacy seems to be cooling off as we head into 2021. In the recent past, scandalous exposures have fueled an ever-growing concern among consumers. But with the advent of contact-tracing apps, consumers are more accepting of data as a public good. In 2013, 56% of internet users were concerned about the internet eroding their personal privacy. By 2019, this had climbed to 61%. Fast-forward to 2020, however, and the pattern has muddied. Some privacy concerns have actually declined in the wake of COVID-19. As Google prepares to kill off the cookie, publishers might just have a new way to influence consumers with the value of first-party data.

There’s no place like home: the pandemic is reshaping city life  

Many predicted that COVID-19 would lead to the death of the city. If you can work from home, why not move to the countryside? But actually, research highlights that most countries are still urbanizing, with cities in the west evolving, not dying. Night-time and service economies have been badly hit, but city dwellers will come to value other aspects of their environment, from the local neighborhood stores to their home interiors.

The Big City Appeal
% of urbanites in the following countries who would choose to continue living in the city
IndiaChinaBrazilGermanyUKFranceUSA
90%88%83%79%74%71%70%

Methodology: 

  • GWI’s Connecting the dots 2021 trend report figures are drawn from its online research among internet users aged 16-64*. The figures represent the online population of each market, not its total population. Each year, GWI interviews over 700,000 internet users via an online questionnaire for our core dataset.

*GWI USA is representative of internet users aged 16+

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